September 7, 2006
Two Steps Back, AL
This is part two of a four-part series in which we'll look at which players saw their stock rise and fall the most in each organization. We continue today with the American League, and the bad news. Disappointments come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be related to performance, or injuries, or both.
After an impressive pro debut, 2005 first-round pick Brandon Snyder couldn't keep his average above the Mendoza line (.194/.237/.340) in his full-season debut at Low Class A Delmarva, and didn't look much better at short-season Aberdeen. The nightmare ended with rotator cuff surgery in August that will force him to miss the first part of the 2007 season.
Honorable Mention: After missing all of 2005 recovering from shoulder surgery, outfielder Val Majewski struggled through a .260/.344/.381 season at Triple-A Ottawa. Entering the season with 34 saves and professional ERA of 1.96, the O's decided to see if lefty Dave Haehnel could do the same as a starter. After a 6.22 ERA for High Class A Frederick, the answer is a resounding No.
Boston Red Sox
When the Red Sox drafted Craig Hansen with one of their first-round picks last year, he was expected to be a bullpen fixture by now. Instead he's bouncing between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket while not pitching especially well at either location.
Honorable Mention: 2005 supplemental first-rounder Jed Lowrie hit .328/.429/.448 in his pro debut, but he limped to the finish with High Class A Wilmington at .262/.352/.374. Outfielder Luis Soto got a second crack at full-season ball and hit just .230/.267/.354 in an injury-plagued year with Low Class A Greenville.
Chicago White Sox
Last year, lefthander Ray Liotta led the Sally League with a 2.26 ERA and was even better after a promotion to High Class A Winston-Salem, with a 1.45 ERA in eight starts. As well as things went last year, they were equally awful in 2006, as Liotta had a combined 5.89 ERA in 28 games, including an 8.08 mark after getting demoted back to the Carolina League.
Honorable Mention: After leading the Southern League with a .331 batting average last year, outfielder Jerry Owens never got going at Triple-A Charlotte, batting .262/.330/.346 when the team could have used a first-half alternative to the struggling Brian Anderson. Which leads us to the point that big time prospect Chris Young is now patrolling center field for Arizona while Javier Vazquez has an ERA approaching five.
After batting .308/.349/.513 in his pro debut, including six home runs in his first ten games, 2005 second-round pick Stephen Head never got on track at High Class A Kinston, finishing at .235/.319/.377.
Honorable Mention: Righty Fausto Carmona split time between Triple-A Buffalo and Cleveland, but struggled in getting hitters out at both places. The injuries continued to add up for first baseman Michael Aubrey, who played in just 14 games after appearing just 28 times last year.
Which number are you going to believe when it comes to 2005 Florida State League MVP Brent Clevlen? The .379/.419/.862 line in 29 big league at-bats? Or the .230/.313/.357 line at Double-A Erie in 395 at-bats? Go with the sample size.
Honorable Mention: After a solid full-season debut in 2005, toolsy outfielder Jeff Frazier hit just .228/.279/.346 at High Class A Lakeland. Third baseman Kody Kirkland slugged a career-high 22 home runs at Double-A Erie, but he also hit just .217 and had 167 strikeouts against only 26 walks.
Kansas City Royals
Shortstop Chris McConnell entered the season with a career batting average of .333 in 107 games, but his full-season debut necessitated a search for something lower than the Mendoza line, as he hit just .172/.254/.201 for Low Class A Burlington.
Honorable Mention: Shortstop Jeff Bianchi now has a career batting average of .414 as a pro. He also has played just 40 games, none of them outside of the Arizona Rookie League, and he's a 19-year-old with a chronic back problem. Sure, High Desert is a nightmare for pitchers, but million-dollar draft-and-follow Luis Cota couldn't keep his ERA under seven.
Los Angeles Angels
Catcher Jeff Mathis was finally handed the keys to the car and he promptly went out and crashed it into a tree, going 4-for-39 (.103) in 12 games and finding himself back at Triple-A Salt Lake, where he hit a respectable but not mind-blowing .289/.333/.430. Like Casey Kotchman and Dallas McPherson, time is starting to run out.
Honorable Mention: Mark Trumbo is looking more like an actual 18th-round pick, as opposed to an 18th-round pick who got a $1.425 million bonus after hitting .220/.293/.355 for Low Class A Cedar Rapids. Two years ago, righty Steven Shell led the California League with 190 strikeouts. After putting up a 4.56 ERA in the Texas League last season, the downward spiral continued with a 6.16 mark for Triple-A Salt Lake.
Entering the year generally regarded as the best pure hitter in the system now that Jason Kubel in the big leagues, third baseman Matt Moses struggled in the big jump to Double-A, batting just .249/.303/.386. He'll likely get another year to enjoy New Britain and its surroundings.
Honorable Mention: 2004 first-round pick Trevor Plouffe saved his season by hitting .299 after August 1, but his final line of .246/.333/.347 still leaves much to be desired. Fellow 2004 first-rounder Kyle Waldrop's inability to miss bats (87 Ks in 155.1 IP) remains a big concern.
New York Yankees
After batting .313/.365/.427 at short-season Staten Island, the Yankees thought 18-year-old shortstop Eduardo Nunez had the skills and the makeup to handle a jump to the High Class A Florida State League. After batting .184/.223/.340 in 37 games at Tampa, things didn't get much better at Low Class A Charleston, where he hit just .227/.278/.294.
Honorable Mention: Eric Duncan bombed out at Triple-A Columbus (.209/.279/.255), and one strong month at Trenton couldn't save his final line, which finished at .234/.330/.405. Now that he's a first baseman, 2007 could be a make-or-break year. Tim Battle hit a miserable .133/.184/.188 in 36 games for High Class A Tampa and now has 459 career strikeouts in 356 games.
2005 first-round pick Cliff Pennington got off to a miserable start at High Class A Stockton, going just 8-for-78 in (.108) in April and needing a 3-for-3 night on June 19 to bring his average over .200 for the first time. Unfortunately, his season line of .203/.302/.277 would be his final numbers there, as a severe hamstring strain cost him the majority of season other than ten days of rehab in the Arizona League.
Honorable Mention: The injury bug decimated the Athletics system this year, as good or better prospects like Daric Barton, Travis Buck, Javier Herrera, Craig Italiano, Danny Putnam and Richie Robnett all missed big chunks of the season. The big prize in the Tim Hudson deal, lefty Dan Meyer continued to stink before going under the knife for shoulder surgery.
The third overall pick last June, catcher Jeff Clement was pushed to the Double-A Texas League and got off to a nice start, batting .288/.386/.525 in 15 games. In May he underwent surgery to clean up both a knee and an elbow, and when he returned, he was inexplicably bumped to Triple-A, but inexpicable promotions were pretty common with the Mariners this year. At Tacoma, Clement hit .257/.321/.347 with only four home runs in 245 at-bats, and why the organization puts their prize catcher at Triple-A in his first full season when Kenji Johjima is in his first year of a three-year contract is beyond me.
Honorable Mention: Third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo hit .306/.359/.379 for High Class A Inland Empire, but just .185/.259/.218 in 62 games with Double-A San Antonio--and he smashed just two home runs all year. Remember when Clint Nageotte led the minor leagues in strikeouts thanks to a plus fastball and one of the best sliders around? Neither of those exists anymore as the 25-year-old righty had a 5.74 ERA at Triple-A Tacoma in a disappointing return to a starting role.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
First baseman Wes Bankston finally reached Triple-A in his fifth year, and while he hit nearly .300, his .297/.333/.441 line shows that he lacks the secondary skills to give the organization an upper-level prospect at the one position where they need it the most.
Honorable Mention: It's hard to call a young, toolsy outfielder who hit .293/.401/.488 at Triple-A a disappointment, but Elijah Dukes' ability to control his emotions declined once again, as a variety of issues limited him to just 80 games. The Rays thought they had a steal in 10th-round pick John Matulia last year; after batting .196/.271/.216 in the Midwest League, and not improving much at short-season Hudson Valley, they don't think that anymore so much.
As the main prospect that came over from the Yankees in the Alex Rodriguez trade, we know two things about shortstop Joaquin Arias. Number one: scouts love his athleticism and his tools. Number two: He's still not a very good baseball player, as evidenced by a .268/.296/.361 season at Triple-A Oklahoma while leading all Pacific Coast League shortstops with 24 errors.
Honorable Mention: Considered a big part of the Alfonso Soriano deal, righthander Armando Galarraga couldn't stay healthy, and even when he was he had a 5.01 ERA in 70 innings. 2005 Second-round pick Johnny Whittleman's full-season debut at Low Class A Clinton was a .227/.313/.343 debacle.
Toronto Blue Jays
After reaching Double-A in his first full season last year, southpaw David Purcey's control problems went from bad to worse, as he compiled a 5.53 ERA in 28 starts thanks in part in 81 free passes in 140 innings.
Honorable Mention: Righthander Josh Banks had an amazing 145/11 K/BB ratio last year, but Triple-A hitters were more than happy to mash Banks marginal stuff in the strike zone, as the former second-round pick had a 5.17 ERA and gave up 35 home runs. 2005 first-round pick Ricky Romero's detractors wondered if he could get it done at the upper levels without plus velocity. His ERA in the High Class A Florida State League: 2.47. His ERA in the Double-A Eastern League: 5.08.
Tomorrow: NL Leap Forwards